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April 17, 2011

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nice work, fiddler.

my take on all of this is that Obama -- or really anyone in government -- can't be any better than we are.

they're there because we elected them. they're able to do what we will accept, no more no less.

Thanks, Russell.

The discussion between doing what the people want and doing what's best for the people goes a long way back. Sometimes, as in Harry Truman's desegregating the military, the decision is unpopular but creates greater equality among Americans. I don't see that happening now -- Obama is no Harry Truman.

Yeah...well, call me crazy, but I don't Obama is responsible for promises that he made to you in your own imagination.

Obama is no Harry Truman.

I agree with this. He's not the guy that is going to push the envelope.

The Overton Window ain't moving under Obama.

Chuchundra, go back and read Obama's campaign speeches. I haven't invented a thing.

Politifacts, among other things, tracks campaign promises. So do a variety of other sites, including but not limited to the Washington Post and Planet Green.

Someone ate my post.

Unfortunately none of my own sonnets fits here. I'll have to wait for one about war or environmental disasters. Or I could aim for a Lovecraftian one, my specialty.

Hartmut, if you or anyone else were to reply in verse, I'd be delighted.

Chuchundra, go back and read Obama's campaign speeches. I haven't invented a thing.

New jobs for all who seek them?
Really, he promised to have zero unemployment? I mean, I can imagine him saying something rhetorical about 'wanting every American who wants a job to have one', but I can't imagine an adult taking that as a serious campaign promise.

So I looked at polifact's site; they show 134 promises kept and 41 broken- but broken promises are often either judgment calls (eg he did institute a program to prevent foreclosures but it's been ineffective in the face of banks' desire to foreclose rather than modify) or things that he couldn't get by Congress ("Enact windfall profits tax for oil companies"). Since I take promises as "I want to do these things" rather than a more dictatorial "I will do these things regardless of what Congress says", Im not sure how to score those but "broken" doesn't seem right.

Sing, news, of Obama's promises, made
To voters who elected him to power.
Which has he kept?

Well, with a rather strained accounting system, still more than 75% of them. I guess Obama's failed To follow through on [something like 20% of the] promises he made [mostly because he can't compel Congress to act] doesn't fit the meter or something. Call it 'eliding accuracy'.

"He's compromised his ship of state; it's sailed
By homophobic hands"

"He's compromised his ship of state; it's sailed
By homophobic hands"

Oops, sorry - a link error to this TPM article ate my comment.

My comment was, of course, that fiddler should direct her disgruntlement towards people in government who are actually the problem.

Reply in verse, you say? Bad move.

*********

There once was a man called Obama
Who had an aversion to drama
He sang "Kumbaya!"
The voters said "Yeah."
But teabaggers answered "Yo' mama!"

*********

There once was a man called Barack.
His mama was white, his daddy was black.
That bothered a few --
The teabagger crew --
Who want the Confederacy back.

*********

Obama ran on "Hope and change",
So some people think it is strange
That he seldom tries
To counter the lies
Republicans love to arrange.

*********

The candidate said "Yes, we can!"
And liberals thought, to a man,
The president might
Put up a good fight.
But he can't preside like he ran.

*********

Republicans claim they're upset
About this big national debt.
But raise any taxes?
They'll bring out their axes:
"The Bush tax cuts must not sunset!"

*********

Oh, and there was an old man from Nantucket ... but never mind.

--TP

Carleton Wu:

It depends how you count. We've got a grossly inadequate economic stimulus, Bush's no- accountability bank bailout, a weak- kneed healthcare plan, and a bit less war. Bush's CEO tax cuts are still there. Homeowners and veterans are still screwed. The Democrats had big majorities and the Republicans are crazy as a sackful of weasels.

But Obama's kids got their puppy. That makes up for it, right?

For those who appear confused by this entry:

1. This is a Shakespearean sonnet; it's not uncommon to find people writing them on the net this week since William Shakespeare's birthday is Friday.

2. It makes reference to several other poets who wrote about politics and current events of their times, including Homer and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is also an example of one of several types of poetry that contain complaints, which is traditional. (Another would be a lament.)

3. As a poem, the wording is allowed a certain amount of poetic license. For instance, Obama need not sail an actual ship in order to be referred to as sailing the ship of state, which is a reference to a poem written about Abraham Lincoln by Longfellow.

4. The citizenry in the title is not me; for one thing, the word is plural. The idea for the poem came from reading half a dozen newspapers' opinion columns in the last week, and the sentiments within it are those that were in the letters to the editor.

not for nothing, but whatever you want to say about the politics here, that's some straight up seriously good literary work. it's clean, solid craft.

nice job, fiddler.

I'm more partial to the notion that Obama is constrained by the shitty state of politics in the US, and the shitty state of the world, but it's nice to get some things here that are not in the usual rut and express things in a way that might cause a fresh look. Anyone else out there who'd like to post a poem here? As long as it's not like this,">http://www.artofeurope.com/larkin/lar2.htm">this, we'll consider it!!

Tony, I like your limericks.

russell, thank you. At times I find it very easy to think in iambic pentameter -- probably a result of both of my parents quoting poetry at me as a child and reading Shakespeare's plays together.

what's bred in the bone, as they say.

managers everywhere, take note. if you want someone who can solve a difficult real world problem, find someone who can write a sonnet or maybe some species counterpoint.

seriously, all these fermi interview problems and crap about sheep and lions and rowboats are not worth your time.

find somebody who can write good, solid verse, in the classic forms. you won't regret it.

there are not many disciplines that are more demanding.

and, of course, if you find someone who can play over giant steps changes with a good rhythm section at something over 200 bpm you get the intellectual rigor plus the ability to think on their feet.

just saying.

seriously, if you want smart adults, teach kids a difficult art.

I haven't invented a thing.
yet
As a poem, the wording is allowed a certain amount of poetic license
and then
the sentiments within it are those that were in the letters to the editor

So you stand behind it, but not exactly, and you dont have to defend it bc it's not really what you think anyway. Fair enough.

But Obama's kids got their puppy. That makes up for it, right?

First, there's a big difference between whether I agree with a President and whether they keep their promises. Mike Huckabee might well keep his promises and govern in a manner I find completely repugnant.
Second, I didnt say Obama kept every promise. I wouldnt even go so far as to say that he's kept more than most Presidents, or that he's done everything he could to keep them (ie some things are beyond his control, others arent). I find the claim that Obama is the Great Breaker of Promises to be somewhat silly, and poetic license here seems like a justification for an opinion that would have a harder time being supported as prose.

IMO Obama's a great executive. I cannot overstate how happy I am that he, and not John McCain, is the President of the United States.

But he's not moving the terms of the debate.

He's a centrist, and as leader of his party he has drawn the "liberal" line in the sand more or less at the center.

Even saying that's he drawn any kind of line in the sand is an overstatement.

He came in saying what he'd like to happen. Some of those things have happened, some have not. That's not completely Obama's fault, but neither was it completely out of his hands.

I'm glad he's President, and he's probably about the best person we could find for the job who could also imaginably be elected.

All of that said, as a "progressive" he's warm beer.

He has not moved the terms of the debate, he has not won back any significant amount of the tremendous ground that has been lost over the last 30 years.

The Overton Window is, at best, right about where it was when he took office.

I'm not disappointed, because I didn't expect much different. But that doesn't mean I'm happy.

Those are my two cents, in prose.

poetic license here seems like a justification for an opinion that would have a harder time being supported as prose

That may be a feature, not a bug. Though there are folks that don't much like Count me in's stylings, I think we'd be poorer if we set a standard that cut him out.

Not strictly on topic and by no means my best. But politics in the US tend to remind me of "the sleep of reason produces monsters". And there is obsidian in it ;-)

A nod to Goya and Füssli

The sun is setting blood red in the West
Now from the East the hosts of shadows creep
The coat of Nyx will soon the landscape sweep
I seek a place my wary head to rest

Gaunt Hypnos is a most unwelcome guest
When reason falls exhausted fast asleep
Dark portals open, chambers in the Deep
Release the demons that the/my soul infest

No Aegis can repel the Stygian mask(s)
Not hardened steel nor sharp obsidian blade
These spectres hurt or lock inside a flask

The night's mares choke the chest with awful weight
Pose to me questions wake sense won't dare ask
Until the cock's crow lets/makes the phantoms fade

I always follow the strict abba abba cdc dcd with 10 syllables per line just to keep myself disciplined.

I was told that my link didn't work, but it was to Phillip Larkin's _This be the Verse_

This

Carlton, you are excelling at misinterpreting both what I was saying and why I said it in a poem. And that's all the answer you're getting.

Hartmut, that's wonderful. The imagery reminds me of Renaissance-era paintings. Thanks for sharing it.

I've written a variety of sonnets, though I'm not sure that some are recognized as such, for instance the ones with rhyme scheme abcd dcba efggfe, which essentially put the couplet in the middle of the last stanza. But sometimes that's just how it works out.

Carlton, you are excelling at misinterpreting both what I was saying and why I said it in a poem. And that's all the answer you're getting.

Ok. I think it's a shame that you'll claim to be misinterpreted without bothering to clarify, but that's your prerogative.

i'm not afraid of trying a poem, now and then.

That may be a feature, not a bug.

I have a strong opinion on the subject: mixing art and politics (in the general sense of social interactions/causes) is often good. But both are done a disservice when each props the other up: if the art only withstands scrutiny because of the political cause, and if the political thinking can't stand to be exposed in prose. That is, attempts to critique the art are defended by calling them critiques of the politics, and attempts to critique the politics are defended (as here) by invoking artistic license.
Whereas, good art and sound reasoning towards a cause can mix to the benefit of both- but only when each can stand alone.

Im not saying the poetry is bad; Ive spent some time with greek poetry but I dont have a good enough aesthetic sense regarding poetry to offer an opinion. I came to this theory from the visual arts... but I think at least one half of it stands here.

I started sonnetizing (sonneting) early this year as part of a friendly contest on a forum: each player writes a sonnet that must contain certain words. The poem is posted and the poster chooses the next quartet of words to be included.

Sadly for me, this from Primus, circa 1992, about sums up my appreciation of poetry:

I ain't one for poetry, aint' one for prose. Ain't one for the scent of a sping-time rose. But there is one fact that I do know, I sure get a kick out of that Beavis and Butt-head show.

Other day I turn my TV on, and guess what I do see?
Two crazy-ass cartoon sunsabitches staring on back at me.
Said "What the hell's this", and Ler said "Boy, dont' you know?"
The whole world's gone crazy over that there Beavis and Butt-head show.

Talk about couch fishing, now I could go for that.
I could go for frog baseball, but I be inclined to use a cat!
On Comedy, I'm a stooges man. I like Larry, Curly and Moe.
But now and then a get a chuckle watchin' the Beavis and Butt-head show.

Stone-Temple Pearlvana Chain, now there's a helluva band.
They got that original sound that's sweepin' 'cross the land.
Ain't no ZZ Top though, now that's the band for me.
If I had my way MTV'd play just them and AC/DC.

I ain't nothing special, I'm your average kinda man.
I like a frosted barley pop and I drink 'em outta the can!
I don't give a rat's ass about poetry and not a damn 'bout prose.
I sure get a kick outta them Beavis and Butt-head shows.

But both are done a disservice when each props the other up: if the art only withstands scrutiny because of the political cause, and if the political thinking can't stand to be exposed in prose.

That's a fair point, and similar to something that a group of generative semanticists who came up in reaction to Chomsky were accused of. They used to propose these constraints and would name them George or Dickie so you would be reading this article about a proposed constraint that was constantly referred to as Dickie. Their argument was that you give it a consciously ridiculous name, you are acknowledging that this is a kludge, and someone else can go in and deal with it in a different way later. Guys on Chomsky's side (who is kinda well known for being rather humorless) cried foul, saying that when called on it, they could just say 'well, we were joking' . I'm in a tradition that comes out of the former group, so I am more sympathetic to them (as well as to their sense of humor in general, frex one famous linguist of this group, James McCawley, wrote articles under the name of Quang Phuc Dong at the South Hanoi Institute for Technology, here is one entitled English sentences without Overt Subjects which has beendescribed as pornolinguistics or scatolinguistics) but I'd admit that the Chomskyites do have a point. Still, I don't think that either is propping the other up in this case. It does make it harder to address what I think is at issue, is Obama Doing All He Can, but that whole discussion is tied into questions of purity of purpose that gets the left side so tied up in knots all the time that it is good (even though I don't agree) to have a take from a different angle.

Given that I don't agree, I might rewrite the poem's first line, as this

"Sing, Kos, of Obama's promises, made" or perhaps
"Sing, Glenn, of Obama's promises, made" (Greenwald, not the perfesser), though that might be a serious misstatement of their positions (though I assume I need to use a one syllable word there to keep the meter) That is probably a more effective response than basicially accusing fiddler of trying to obscure her point so she can get it by folks, as it takes the message and re-spins it. I tend to think that she was presenting the observation in a different way to maybe make people take it up, so I think you might want to tread just a bit more lightly, not because I disagree with your point, but because I think we need these sorts of things, if only for our own mental health.

lj,
Id been inclined to treat it more lightly (and probably not comment at all) until fiddler declared that this was to be taken more or less factually rather than as some comment on the times. Then, I thought- hey, let's have a conversation about this, mostly aiming at the diff between Obama the actual politician and Obama the symbol for change (my position being somewhere around russell's ie Obama could've been better so, but probably could not have lived up to the expectations of some). Is Obama the Great Breaker Of Promises? Is he worse than other presidents? As fiddler points out, we've seen much of this on the left, but I dont recall a good debate on it here.
Then, the position morphed to 'this is just the pulse of some on the left and is' (as Kyl recently put it) 'not intended to be a factual statement'. If it had started there, then as I said I wouldn't have commented in the first place. But to see the factual position defended and then abandoned as poetic license and not really the author's viewpoint in the first place, that's disappointing.

That is probably a more effective response than basicially accusing fiddler of trying to obscure her point so she can get it by folks, as it takes the message and re-spins it.

That would be fine, given the current state of play. But after fiddler's first set of responses that did not seem to be the case- it was a claim that this is a portrayal of the world as it is, not the world as seen through one group's perspective. At that point, to suggest that the poem be altered from a factual stance to a viewpoint of one group would be sort of insulting I think.

Hey Carlton,
school starting is going to make this comment a lot shorter than I wish it were. One thing that art does is that it makes something palatable, or at least swallowable. It is able to put very unpleasant things in a wrapper that puts them forward. The danger is that the artist puts something forward that they feel is Truth, in that moral artistic sense, and one can complain about the brushstrokes.

As I said, I don't agree with the notion necessarily, but there are two things about this. One is that not only fiddler but a lot of other people, people whose I, in the normal course of events, opinions I would respect and cherish. That this is tied to a long tradition of anti-encomium OR anti-panegyric (I'm at a loss for the word, a quick google says that the opposite of encomium is invective, but that isn't what I'm thinking) I'd suggest undercuts the critical nature of it, in that poets have been taking pens to paper to denounce leaders that we might think that the problem lies not in Obama but the numan nature of expectations. This is probably not the response fiddler would have liked (who wouldn't want praise and agreement?) but it seems better than accusing her of using art to hide her opinions.

And even though I disagree, there is a factual basis to this, not only from the fact that so many folks on the left believe this to be the case, but also because Obama seems to have played on it to get elected. Some of it was thrust upon him, a product of our country's history, but he did embrace it. I'm not sure if he could have run away from it, should he have really said "I'm not a black man, I'm really a white person because I was primarily raised by my white mother". In some sense, Obama is hemmed in by our society's own ruts about identity, but that he has tried to portray a certain mythic sense about himself tels us something about the way we as a people have to be moved.

Again, far too short, and I'm afraid I won't have any time until Sunday to flesh this out, but if you hit me up then, I can put up a post discussing it. cheers

Don't get me wrong, the idea of Obama as fatally-flawed protagonist is interesting, artistically.

it seems better than accusing her of using art to hide her opinions

Let me put it this way; if the initial question had produced something like what you've said here, I probably wouldn't have commented at all- not bc it wasnt interesting but bc Im not sure Id have anything to add.
But defending the work on a factual basis put things in an entirely different light. There is a big difference to me between exploring the concept of Obama as a flawed hero and actually claiming that Obama has broken all or most of his campaign promises or that he's remarkably faithless, a homophobe, etc.

Those are fine assertions to make too, but they're assertions of fact and I wanted to talk about them- and it seemed like we were. I just find something wrong with starting to defend the position, refer me to some websites to back it up, and *then* decide that it's all just poetic license and it's not even her opinion anyway. One is fine. The other is fine. Picking which one you want based on how the discussion is going is too fickle for my tastes.

he danger is that the artist puts something forward that they feel is Truth, in that moral artistic sense, and one can complain about the brushstrokes.

Tricky terrain. Sometimes having something false be true makes everything else fall into place the way that we'd want it to- perhaps that's 'true in a moral artistic sense', but I actually find that more disturbing than enlightening. When one does that, one is saying that the actual complexity and moral ambiguity of reality is less pleasant to apprehend than a black-and-white elision of reality.
Maybe that's ok if you acknowledge what you're doing, that you're taking a picture and photoshopping it for artistic effect. Even then, the risk of drawing real-world lessons from a faked image is present.

Think of how upset we get when a news photo is edited to 'bring out' the story somehow. As if we needed the news media's aesthetic judgment about how reality ought to be injected into our information feed. Or, I feel that way when I read/watch historical fiction that takes excessive liberties (obviously a judgment call) with the subject for artistic purposes.

If one wants to abstract out some principle from the messiness of life, that's all well and good. Admit that any principle so derived is going to be messy, like a newborn baby.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Sorry, I missed this and it just seems to be us going back and forth, but I think there is pretty big gap between a news photo is not a poem and I don't think you'd mistake one for the other. Certainly, the question of photoshopping news photos is a topic that has been discussed quite a bit, but how one photoshops a poem sort of indicates that there is a difference in kind. I'm a fan of Picasso's quote that 'Art is a lie that helps us see the truth', and I don't think there is any totally neutral point of view. At least that is my take on it.
cheers

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